Oedipus Rex: Reviewed

Graphics: Britton Struthers

When I first heard of the opportunity to review Mermaids’ recent production of Oedipus Rex, I jumped at the chance. We had just read the iconic Greek tragedy in second-year English, so this modernization seemed, given the circumstances, too good to miss. What I found was a spiralized, dystopian rendering of the play, one whose bleak, monochromatic set and multimedia approach played out like a Black Mirror episode in the flesh.

This production, written and directed by Gabriele Uboldi and produced by Chloe Ashley, was nothing if not complex. Even as someone familiar with the plot, there were parts of it I found difficult to follow. Uboldi’s fresh approach to the tragedy was constructed as a sort of descent into madness, but often that madness obscured points of plot. The script, however, was very well-written, particularly the monologues given to a number of characters. Additionally, the technical elements – voiceovers, videography by Finn Antrobus, original music by Annabel Steele, live DJ-ing by Zoe Ruki, and much more – all felt well-incorporated, a difficult achievement when so many things are fighting for the audience’s attention.

One aspect that felt a little flat to me was the choreography, which was well-staged by Sarah Julia Greenberg but not always well-executed. There was a disparity in ability across the cast that revealed itself in the larger group numbers, to the point that it distracted from the seriousness of the content. Perhaps it could have been left out altogether in order for the play to retain a more ruminative note.

On the other hand, many of the production’s gambles paid off. The inventive element of multiple Oedipus’s (Isabelle Cory, Charles Vivian, Miriam Woods, Martin Caforio) really demonstrated the breadth of these actors’ abilities, as they moved in and out of this demanding role fluidly and without breaking tempo. But perhaps my favorite aspect of Uboldi’s rewrite was the way in which he handled Jocasta (Martina Sardelli). Deepened far beyond Sophocles’ original conception of her, Jocasta featured nearly as prominently as Oedipus – and rightly so, as only she suffers on the level Oedipus does. Sardelli’s performance strengthened that multifaceted depth, as she flaunted and raged even while subtly revealing a profound vulnerability in her character.

Overall, Uboldi has constructed a story that interweaves seamlessly through and upon itself, so full of careful details and structured levels that I almost feel like I need to see it again to truly comprehend and appreciate it. It is a testament to Western civilization that I can sit in a local theater in a small seaside town in Scotland and watch my fellow students reinterpret a tragic story of human feeling that has endured for thousands of years and is still able to captivate modern audiences. Certainly we have come a long way since Sophocles’ time, but at our emotional core and in our personal and political relationships to each other, we have, Oedipus Rex reveals, remained the same.

4/5 Owlies

Preview: Oedipus Rex at the Byre Theatre

Graphics: Britton Struthers

“Daddy Issues” was the name given to one of an array of signature cocktails featured at the Oedipus Rex launch party last Wednesday night in Beacon Bar. A gusty combination of gin, cherry liqueur, and vodka, the concoction’s color echoed the vivid pinks and purples of the upcoming production’s posters, which in the past few weeks have been visibly plastered all over town.

This version of Oedipus Rex, set to take the stage at the Byre Theatre this week, is the brainchild of seasoned writer and director Gabriele Uboldi, whose work has graced the St Andrews stage a number of times in his illustrious career with Mermaids. He plans to take an entirely new production to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer before embarking on what is looking to be a promising career in playwriting and directing. Uboldi himself calls his adaptation of Oedipus a culmination of all he has learned and been working towards in his time at St Andrews, both in its technical challenges and in what he has garnered from the student theatre community here. The play certainly promises technical ambition, incorporating a polished array of elements including original videography, projections, choreography, and live DJing, some of which have been featured in Uboldi’s past work.

So, why Oedipus Rex? In the thousands of years since its first conception by Sophocles, Oedipus Rex has so captured the fascination of Western culture, even outside the world of the theatre, that it continues to be performed today. The troubling issues it poses have endured so far as to become integrated into our modern vocabulary, and a contemporary understanding of the play remains a powerful undercurrent in our approaches to the human psyche, most notably within Freudian theory. For Uboldi, Oedipus Rex represents a whole realm of still-relevant themes relating to storytelling and how we as human beings read ourselves in the narratives occurring around and through us. This play raises the question of how to react when you know the odds are already stacked against you, a question that in our current world of chaotic political and environmental turmoil is still each day begging to be answered.

In attending the launch party and in sitting down with Uboldi this week, I personally have felt a sense of convivial dynamism, not only from individuals such as Uboldi, but from the entire Oedipus team. It’s clear that this animated, close-knit collective is incredibly passionate about what it does. That passion promises to take the stage this week in an unmissable exploration of fate, the stories we are written into, and how we choose to tell them.

Oedipus Rex goes up in the Byre Theatre this Tuesday and Wednesday, 11-12 February, 7:30pm. Tickets are available on the Byre website: